<% IssueDate = "5/29/03" IssueCategory = "Events" %> GayToday.com - Top Story
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Bigoted Constitutional Amendment
Introduced in U.S. Congress

Representatives Attempt to Deny Same-Sex Couples' Equality

Amendment Flies in the Face of American Public Opinion Polls

Compiled by GayToday
Human Rights Campaign

Washington, D.C.-- The introduction of legal bigotry in the form of the Federal Marriage Amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives was denounced yesterday by The Human Rights Campaign. The measure seeks to permanently deny marriage to same-sex couples. It further seeks to circumvent state and federal courts from hearing cases on marital benefit issues. Two states, Massachusetts and New Jersey, are currently reviewing landmark same-sex marriage cases.

"The U.S. Constitution is a document designed to protect the basic equality and civil rights of all Americans. Using the Constitution to deny rights to same-sex couples flies in the face of everything that makes this country great," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. "The bottom line on the issue of marriage is that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and protections that most other American families take for granted."

A 1997 study by the General Accounting Office showed that there are more than 1,000 federal rights, benefits, obligations and protections associated with marriage that gay and lesbian couples currently have no access to, including tax benefits, inheritance rights and even privileges as basic as being able to make decisions for a partner in the hospital.
Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave is one of the co-sponsors of the Federal Marrriage Amendement that would outlaw any marriage not between a man and a woman

A recently released Gallup Poll showed that six in 10 Americans support giving same-sex couples the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples regarding health care benefits and Social Security survivor benefits. The poll also showed that the country is evenly split, 49 percent in favor and 49 percent against, on allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally form civil unions, giving them some of the legal rights of marriage.

A recent study of the 2000 Census by the Urban Institute showed that the average same-sex couple is, statistically speaking, a mirror image of the average married couple. For example, the average same-sex couple with children in Ohio is raising 1.79 children, while the average heterosexual couple is raising 1.93 children. Also in Ohio, 75.1 percent of same-sex couples own their homes, and 82.2 percent of other couples own their homes, which have the same median value of $112,500.

"Clearly, the similarities between same-sex couples and married couples far outweigh the differences," said Birch. "This amendment is divisive and discriminatory, and seeks to treat one group of citizens differently than everyone else. That's just wrong."

The amendment states: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this [C]onstitution nor the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried coupled or groups."

Passing a constitutional amendment is, by design, a complicated and complex process. First the amendment has to be introduced as a joint resolution in the House and Senate. The amendment must pass both houses by a two-thirds majority vote. The amendment must then be ratified by three-quarters of states. Last year, during the 107th Congress, a similar resolution was introduced in the House, but never in the Senate. That resolution did not receive any legislative action, and subsequently died.

The Federal Marriage Amendment, introduced May 21, is sponsored by Republican Reps. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Jo Ann Davis of Virginia and David Vitter of Louisiana, and Democratic Reps. Ralph M. Hall of Texas, Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina. Several of these members co-sponsored the bill last year. There is no Senate companion measure.

"This amendment, and the small handful of people supporting it, not only face strong opposition in the hearts and minds of most Americans, but also have to overcome significant built-in constitutional hurdles. Ultimately, this amendment will most likely equate to little more than a mean-spirited sideshow," said Birch.
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